Fall In Semi-Finals To Skutt Catholic
Mike Motz, Sidney Sun -Telegraph
Sidney's Lady Raider Girls Basketball team traveled to Lincoln and defeated the Beatrice Lady Orange on Thursday, March 2 in the first round of the Class B NSAA State Tournament. It was the Lady Raider's first tournament win in 39 years.
Head Coach Tyler Shaw was no stranger to Pinnacle Bank Arena, with the 2023 Tournament being his eighth trip to the Big Dance. But he had not yet been able to get a team past the first round, and with the squad he had this year matched against No. 6 seed Beatrice, all of that was about to change.
The game started with both teams playing tight defense, and the low scoring quarter ended with a Sidney advantage at 10-to-5. The Lady Raiders' aggressive defense was playing havoc with the Lady Orange's offense, but the Sidney starters were quickly picking up fouls. Beatrice was relegeted to firing off three point shots with no effect.
Sidney kept up the defensive pressure in the second quarter, forcing turnovers and stealing the ball away from Beatrice, but they continued to pick up fouls. Sidney increased their lead, then a burst of scoring capped by junior Karsyn Leeling's three-point hit just before the buzzer sounded gave Sidney a 25-to-18 lead at the end of the half. Senior Reese Riddle led the offense for Sidney with 11 points and Sidney out rebounded the Lady Orange 16-to-13.
The second half was a role-reversal of sorts, as Sidney first extended their lead to 11 points in the third quarter, only to have Beatrice chip away at the lead. The Lady Raiders dialed back the aggressiveness on defense to prevent their starters from fouling out, while Beatrice dialed up their own defensive pressure, and started to pile up fouls.
Beatrice was able to get hot on offense while Sidney cooled. By the end of the quarter, the Lady Irish were able to evaporate the Sidney lead, and went into the fourth quarter up 30-to-29. After scoring the first four points to start off the quarter, Sidney started to rally back, closing the gap while Beatrice continued to pick up fouls. Sidney was quickly in the bonus, and their ineffectual free throw attempts of the first half turned into clutch makes going down the stretch. Halfway through the period, two of Beatrice's starters, Kiera Busboom and then Riley Schwisow, fouled out. The Lady Raiders then took a lead when Riddle sank two free throws with about a minute and a half left to move the score to 38-to-37. The Lady Raider defense held strong, and Beatrice was forced to foul. Both Riddle and senior Rheagan Stanley were steady at the charity stripe, with Stanley making two throws to move the score to 40-to-37 and then Riddle making three more throws in the final minute to end the game with a 43-to-37 score and advance the Lady Raiders to the semi-finals.
The girls jumped for joy at the final buzzer, taking home the victory and finally advancing a Lady Raider team to the semi-finals. Next up loomed No. 1 seed Skutt Catholic, a powerhouse Class B team. The Lady Raider defense would have to have their best game and their offense needed to be sharp and fast if they were to have any chance against last year's runner-up.
On Friday afternoon, the game started with Skutt Catholic grabbing the tip-off and quickly scoring. After Riddle was fouled and converted one free throw, the Lady Skyhawks went on a run, carving through the Sidney defense, getting great looks, and converting. The Skutt Catholic defense swarmed the Lady Raiders from all directions, stealing the ball and knocking away passes until coach Shaw called a time out at 14-to-1. Sidney came out of the timeout and Riddle immediately scored on a layup to move the score to 14-to-3, but that would be all the offense the Lady Raiders would muster in the first quarter. Skutt rattled off 12 unanswered points and held a 26-to-3 lead going into the second period.
Skutt opened the second quarter with a three point hit only to be answered by Sidney junior Karsyn Leeling's three point score in response. Skutt Catholic, with a big lead, dialed back their aggressiveness but still seemingly stole the ball away from the Lady Raiders at will, giving Sidney 14 turnovers, their season average, mid-way through the second period. Sidney was able to score a few times, but Skutt matched their scoring and took a big 37-to-13 lead into the halftime break. The Lady Raiders had 18 turnovers in the first half, 15 of them being steals. The Skutt squad was long, athletic and experienced, and the Lady Raiders needed to turn up their aggressiveness in the second half.
The third quarter had Sidney play better offensively, but they still managed only 13 points against Skutt's 9, and trailed badly. The Skutt team had a good fourth quarter, putting away Sidney with 17 points in the stanza, and taking the 63-to-36 win. The loss ended Sidney's season with 25-and-3 record. Riddle again led the scoring for Sidney with 9 points followed by Karsyn Leeling with 8 points in the loss. Skutt Catholic moved on to a finals matchup with defending champion Elkhorn North on Saturday, and lost to The Lady Wolves 64-to-51, making them back-to-back State Champions. The Lady Raiders end their season with a District Title and a quarterfinal round win in the NSAA Tournament, and return most of their starters for the 2023-24 season.